Bara Imambara means a big place of worship. It is also called Asfi Imambara after the name of Asaf-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Lucknow, who built it in the year 1783. The imambara is one of the most magnificent buildings in the city. The complex comprises a shrine, bhul bhulayian — labyrinth, a bowli or a step well, and also the grave of the late Nawab, which is located under a canopy.
The architectural design of the Imambara incorporates typical decorative Mughal style as represented by the Badshahi Mosque of Lahore in Pakistan, which is considered to be the fifth biggest mosque in the world.
A striking feature of its design is that it does not use iron or incorporate any feature of European style architecture. The ceiling of the 50x16x15 m central hall of the building does not have any supporting beams.
Bara Imambara is known for its labyrinthine and confusing passages that interconnect with each other and have 489 doorways. It is believed that there is a mile long tunnel (now blocked) that leads to the Gomti river.
Chota Imambara or the small shrine is, in fact, a magnificent monument in Lucknow. Also called Hussainabad Imambara, it was built in the year 1838 by Mohammad Ali Shah, the third Nawab of Awadh. It is situated near the Chowk in the old city area of Lucknow. The Imambara was built as the last resting place - mausoleum of the Nawab.
It houses his grave and also the graves of his family members. Since it was built during the famine, it provided livelihood through the Food for Work Program to thousands of labourers who worked for its construction. The design of Chota Imambara with its gilded white dome, turrets and minarets are based upon the Charbagh pattern.
The extensive use of glass work in the building reflects Persian style of architecture. The walls are inscribed with Arabic calligraphy. Chota Imambara is also called the Palace of Lights given that it is illuminated during the festivals. The chandeliers decorating the interior of the monument were imported from Belgium.
1857 Memorial Museum was set up to highlight the struggle of the people of India and also the role played by the people of Lucknow during the momentous period of the history of India’s first war of Independence. It is well known that Lucknow was the epicentre of important events in the uprising against the British rule.
The museum is located in the annex of the Residency Building, and the exhibits offer a lucid account of the freedom movement. They include the artifacts discovered from the excavation of the Residency, a loaded revolver, porcelain items, wine bottles, documents, photographs, paintings, shields, lithographs, weapons, cannon balls, arms and ammunition, guns, muskets, cannons, badges and a host of similar other important items of memorabilia.
The exhibits are arranged in a way to give a systematic and chronological account of the events of the freedom struggle. There are several maps that show the strategic locations in Lucknow including the map and model of the Residency. The museum is spread over the ground floor and the basement area of the building. There are four galleries on the ground floor and seven in the basement.
There are several Moti Mahals all over the country. Most of them are restaurants and hotels, but the Moti Mahal of Lucknow was the residence of the Nawabs of Awadh. Also known by its literally translated name, Pearl Palace, Moti Mahal is located on Rana Partap Road on the bank of River Gomti, facing the Stadium and close to Hazratganj.
It owes its name to its pearl-like white structure. Moti Mahal was constructed by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan so that his family could enjoy the sight of the animal fights, which were commonly held on the opposite side of the bank of the river.
Nawabs of Awadh were bird lovers. The palace also enabled them to watch a variety of birds flying close by. It is, however, believed that these two reasons were merely a façade and the place that was built like a citadel, was used to keep a close watch over the movements and operations of the enemies. The Nawab made two more additions to the palace, Shah Manzil and the Mubarak Manzil.
Juma Masjid with its three domes and two minarets stands as a remarkable witness to the luxury and opulence of the era of the Nawabs of Awadh in Lucknow. Nawab Mohammad Ali Shah wanted to build a mosque that would surpass all its counterparts in the country in architectural grandeur and magnificence.
However, he suffered from chronic rheumatism and died in 1842 and could not live to complete his dream project. The masjid was finally completed by his wife, Begum Mallika Jehan. The grand masjid is spread over an area of 4950 sq m. The architectural design, exquisite decorations, carvings and calligraphy in the outer walls of the masjid display the impact of Hindu and Jain temples.
The inner walls are decorated with gilded mirrors, silver pulpits, stunning Mughal style frescos and brilliant chandeliers. The arched domes of the masjid stand upon 260 pillars of various heights. The grave of Ahmed Shah is located in the eastern wing of the building.
Although Sikandar Bagh refers primarily to a garden, it also has a villa in the premises. It was built by the Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh as his summer palace. It is not clear whether he named the garden after Alexander the Great or his favourite wife Sikandar Mahal Begum.
Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was a colourful personality. He, therefore, built a pavilion in the middle of the garden where he loved to watch Ras-lilas, Kathak dances and hear music and mushairas and other cultural and artistic performances. The Bagh was, however, converted into a stronghold against the British army during the first war of Indian Independence in 1857.
It hosted 2200 soldiers during the Siege of Lucknow. Several people were killed by the British forces led by Commander-in-Chief Sir Colin Campbell. With the past behind, Sikandar Bagh is now a home to the National Botanical Research Institute of India.
Rumi Darwaza, also known as Turkish Gate, was named after a great 13th century Muslim Sufi mystic, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi. This sixty foot tall gate was built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah in the year 1784. The gate is a magnificent example of Awadhi style architecture and is regarded as a gateway to the city of Lucknow.
A huge lamp was placed atop the gate during the era of the Awadh Nawabs to light up the passage at night. The sight became all the more captivating when the streams of water gushing from the beautiful bud-shaped fountains close by formed an arch on the gateway.
The real tribute to the gate as well as the road leading to it was paid by Russell, a correspondent of the New York Times, who was covering the entry of the British army in Lucknow in 1858. He reported that the passage from the Rumi Darwaza to Chattar Manzil was “the most beautiful and spectacular cityscape that he had ever seen, better than Rome, Paris, London and Constantinople.”
Shah Najaf Imambara is one of the most-visited tourist destinations in Lucknow. The monument was built by Nawab Gazi-ud-din Haider, the fifth Nawab of Awadh in 1816-17 as a mausoleum to house his body after his death. According to his wish, he is buried here along with his three wives Sarfaraz Mahal, Mumtaz Mahal and Mubarak Mahal.
The magnificent building, with a huge shrine with a large white dome, is surrounded by a boundary wall and is located on the bank of Gomti river close to the present day Sahara Ganj Shopping Mall. A distinguishing feature of the Imambara is that it has a remarkable similarity with Imam Hazrat Ali Rausa at Nazaaf city in Iraq.
The central hall is exquisitely decorated with historical photos and other mementos. The Nawab entered into an agreement with the British government and paid it a huge amount of money for the decoration and maintenance of the mausoleum.
Taluqdar Hall, a two storey structure stands in a small area of the terracotta-coloured building that was constructed by the third Nawab of Awadh, Mohammad Ali Shah in 1838. A year later a tank was built opposite to it. The building was flanked by a small mosque on one side and a hamam or a public bath on the other.
Taluqdar Hall contains photographs and oil paintings of the erstwhile rulers of the city. The picture and oil paintings were created by European artists, Harrison, Dawling, Gravet and also D.S.Singh who visited India and stayed here for three years from 1882 to 1885.
The British government gifted the works to the Anjuman of Taluqadars of Awadh. The paintings all have an amazing feature which is that no matter from which direction you look, the tip of the sword, the eyes and the boots will always point towards you.
Hussainabad Clock Tower is situated opposite Hussainabad Imambara and is just a mile away from the famous Rumi Darwaza. Standing at 67 m or 221 ft, it is considered to be the tallest building in the country. Built in 1887 and designed by the architect Roskell Payne, the clock tower is the magnificent example of the Victorian-Gothic style architecture in India.
Its construction was started by Nawab Nasir-ud-din as a gesture of welcome to Sir George Couper, first Lieutenant Governor of United Province of Avadh. The work stopped due to his death but was finally completed in 1887. It cost a whopping Rs.1.74 lakh in those days.
The components of the clock in the skyscraper were made of gun metal which were brought from Luigate Hill, London. The 14 ft long and one and a half inch thick pendulum is larger than even that of the Westminster Clock. It revolves around a flower-shaped dial with bells chiming around it.
Kaiserbah Palace was built by Wajid Ali Shah, the Nawab of Awadh in 1847. The palace was his dream project, and he wanted it to be counted as the eighth wonder of the world. Situated in the eastern part of the Chattar Manzil, Kaiserbagh Palace is located near Tarawali Kothi, Roshan-ud-Daula Kothi and Chaulakhi Kothi.
The British government destroyed the palace as they felt it had become a strong hold of the mutinous nawabs that were conspiring with the wife of Wajid Ali Shah after he was exiled to Calcutta. Consequently, a large part of the complex including the court, enclosures of the tombs and residences of the nawab were demolished.
The palace boasts of magnificent pillars and has banisters, Hindu umbrellas, lanterns and Moorish minarets. The Mughal style pavilions are complimented by European style gilt crowns and statues. In keeping with the traditions of the era, the palace has separate chambers for the royal ladies. A majestic 12-door building made of white stone also stands in the centre of the palace.
Constantia, one of the most visited tourist destinations in Lucknow is the name of the residence of Major General Claude Martin, a Frenchman hailing from Lyons in France. The residence was built in 1751. There are several stories related to the name of the house, one of them being that it is named after Constance, a lady from France whom Martin deeply loved.
Constantia sprawls over a raised area of around 200 acres. It reflects several eccentric and extravagant architectural styles. Visit the residence and you will be able to see several strange statues including those of two gigantic lions with impressive eyes.
Constantia is also home to Lucknow’s most famous school, La Martiniere, named after Martin. The college was built after his death in accordance to his will. The school was started in 1840 and was meant to teach the boys of all religions. Constantia also contains the grave of his son Claud Martin who died in 1800.
Begum Hazrat Mahal Park was built in the memory of the wife of the last Nawab of Awadh, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and is named after her. It stands in the centre of the city just close to Hotel Clarks Awadh. The begum took charge of the affairs of Lucknow after her husband was deported to Kolkata.
She put up a brave fight against the British but was forced to take refuge in Nepal where she died in 1879. Post-independence, the UP Government built a memorial in her name and opened it to the public on 15th August 1962.
The memorial contains a marble tablet with four circular brass plaques and the coat of arms of the royal family of the state of Awadh. The park has now become a haven for the morning walkers. It contains beautifully landscaped grassy lawns interspersed with marble pathways.
The evenings offer a delightful feast to the eyes when the fountains start gushing arched streams of water as the park and the artificial ponds in it are covered with a flood of light.
The development of Aminabad as a market place in Lucknow was started by Shah Alam Second during 1759-1806. He built an Imambara, Feelkhana, and also a number of shops along the side of a garden. After his death, his wife disposed off the property to Imdad Hussain Khan Aminaddaula, a minister to Nawab Wajid Ali Khan.
He developed more gardens, parks, built big houses, a mosque, and a market and named the area Aminabad. The sprawling market complex in Aminabad also has a park which was inaugurated by the then Lieutenant General Hewitt on February 18, 1911.
Aminabad is the heart of Lucknow. The market is more than 165 years old. It is, in fact, a conglomerate of a number of markets including Partap Market, Swadeshi Markets, Mohan Market among many others. Some of the shops such as Tunde Kabab, Dwivedi Sarees, Prakash Kulfi and Matabadal Pansari have become brand names.
A major shopping complex of Lucknow, Hazratganj Market is situated in Parivartan Chowk area of Hazratganj in the centre of the city. Built by Amjad Ali Shah in 1810, the market was earlier located on Queens Way on which the British used to drive their carriages.
With the passage of time, it has made forays into the narrow winding streets of the city. A beautification drive launched in 2010-11 has ensured the installation of bright lights, fountains and benches that have given the road a Victorian era ambience. Hazratganj market comprises bazaars, shopping malls, classy showrooms, hotels, PVR film theatres, Fun Cinemas, restaurants, food courts and offices.
Name anything and you can get it here including the latest cars, jewellery, antiques, handicraft items and above all, the famed Lucknow Chikan material. The market is home to several brand names in consumer products including Big Bazaar Superstore, Gurjari Handloom Emporium, Gandhi Ashrams selling handicraft items and the five storey Sahara Ganj Mall sprawling more than 425,000 sq ft area.